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129thVisplane

How to go about learning to make enjoyable maps?

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First off I'm not sure if this should go in here or in wads & mods. I'm just gonna put it here, since it is kinda editing related as well. I'll probably delete it in a bit anyway since it's just incoherent rambling.

Anyway I like to think I'm pretty good at making texture edits and stuff like that. I've got wad ideas galore. But where all the wad ideas stop at is the point where I have enough textures and other resources to start mapping.

 

Now, I am pretty well versed in GZDB. I know my way around it, know how to do all the basic stuff like making doors and aligning textures and all that shit, even advanced zdoom stuff like polyobjects and 3d floors and portals is no problem for me. There's no issue for me in making geometry that's kinda neat to look at, but what I really suck at, is making maps that are engaging and enjoyable to actually play. I don't know why but I just can't envision a fun battle. It's like my creativity just straight up fucks off. And it really sucks, cuz I wanna work on cool projects, I wanna see them completed and enjoyed by people, but I'm just so incapable of mapping for em and it throws me down the depression cliff everytime I try. (can u tell im there now)

 

So anyway, to stop pointlessly dragging myself down, I'd like some advice as to how to make an enjoyable map. What do you guys do/use to make your maps fun? Do you plan fights ahead or do you come up with em as you go? How do you avoid getting distracted by architecture before you even start setting a fight up?

I swear if everyone answers "it just comes naturally to me" i might as well hand in my doom modder badge and my gun cuz then there's no hope.

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First off, what do you find fun to play? Any maps in particular? 

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I like stuff that's not extremely difficult but not overly easy either, something like early Sunlust maps on HMP I guess. In all honesty I'm not really sure what to compare my tastes to, I haven't played singleplayer too much recently.

 

Another issue with me is that I could play and love a map that has trainwreck gameplay but looks superb on the architecture/aesthetic front, which doesn't help my case either since thats how my maps tend to turn out.

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16 minutes ago, 129thVisplane said:

I don't know why but I just can't envision a fun battle. It's like my creativity just straight up fucks off.

Personally I prefer to build rooms when I have a fight in mind. In that case I build the room around the fight, basically.

 

If you have troubles thinking of a fight, then I don't really know if I can actually give you an advice that is gonna help much. In fact, I don't even really know what's going on in my mind when I plan a fight. I guess I come up with a problem I want to solve with a certain amount of resources, and I wanna make it such that people can't just camp stuff to death, so I try pushing them around or make them pay attention to more than just one thing.

 

If all people have is a rocket launcher, and they're up against fast moving or tanky monsters in confined areas, then you have an interesting problem to solve. If you give them a weapon and scatter ammo in small portions all over the place, then you have something that forces people to move while monsters spread around the place, that makes it more interesting. If you can create a situation in which players need to take out certain priority targets quickly while dodging other stuff, then you have a recipe for a potentially interesting fight. I dunno what to say, really. There's lots of stuff you can do to make shooting enemies "more" than just shooting enemies, and in many cases it revolves around keeping people moving by way of enemy pressure or the location of required resources.

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Posted (edited)

Here's an idea - more of a thought exercise:

 

Imagine you knew that an army was coming, and that they would be moving through an area, and it is your job to protect this area and stop the army. (You are the monsters, and the army heading towards you is the player).

 

To prepare, you'd think about the landscape, and you'd think "Where can I put 'snipers' for the first wave of attacks, where they would be most efficient". Also, you'd look at all of the ways an army could breach your security. Also, which forces would be best to use at the front of the fight, so they wouldn't get hit with friendly fire, and yet they would be powerful as ground attack troops.

 

Imagine that, like in chess, your king is inside this fortress, and you must protect him at all times. So, you want to prevent the army from advancing, and, if they do advance, you want to be able to repel them, before they get to the most-inner areas.

 

Now, back to reality, you actually do want the player to eventually make it inside, so you can't make it completely impenetrable. Your job is to give the player what he wants. Which is what?

  • Challenging, but not impossible battles
  • Fights that require good mobility
  • Fights that require creativity, or something clever
  • The player wants to feel like a bad-ass, but not for free

So,

  • If you use an archvile, add a few pillars the player can duck behind.
  • Play to Doom's strengths: Add enough room for circle-strafing, to support infighting and missile avoidance.
  • Fortresses can have monsters placed at different heights, which really changes the dynamics for the better.
  • Add an escape tunnel, letting the player find a new vantage point

The player against 500 barons is boring. But the player against 5 barons, and archvile, 10 imps, 15 pinkies, and 10 strategically placed shotgunners provides lots of varied targets, and promotes the idea of kill prioritization. In such a battle, give the player a place to avoid getting hit by shotgun shells or archvile fire, but also punish him for camping there too long.

 

Basically, don't just dump a bunch of monsters around. Think about why they are standing where they are, and in some cases, optimize their effectiveness. Bullet shooters are more effective up on ledges, where they are harder to shoot. Pinkies are best on ground level where they can bite. They are also very fast, so they will show up first at the player's neck.

 

Try to imagine the level from the viewpoint of the monsters for a while, and set them up in good positions to accomplish their goal. Then, switch to the player's point-of-view, and provide challenges that are difficult, but not impossible. If done carefully, you create scenarios that give the player the entertainment they most seek, by making them think, and rewarding them for thinking. Encourage good mobility skills that work well within Doom movement mechanics. Some bonuses can be traps, but you don't want to become obvious. There's nothing wrong with a nice reward after a mega battle.

 

Finally, don't dick the player. Inescapable pits. Surprise crush rooms. Oooh - I just picked up 30 rockets...Oh shit, 30 revenants... It's like those movies where they kill off the good guy right at the end, for no reason other than to punish the poor viewer who has invested 90 minutes into watching the movie. No one wants to feel like they've been mercilessly toyed with. Provide a way out, even if it's difficult.

 

Hope that helps. Let me know if you've gotten anything from this, and point me to a new map that might incorporate some of these ideas - it's the kind of maps I want to play!

 

EDIT: Wow - that linked image! Reminds me of Alone in the Dark.

 

Edited by kb1

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Posted (edited)

One thing I do is leave a map for a few weeks then go back and play it with fresh eyes. During the map, if I think, it would be cool if this or that happened here, I take a note of that. It doesn't have to be possible within the game environment. Just important to get the idea down on paper before it's lost.

 

For example, I might think. It would be cool if rooms morphed so that when you return to them they seem different. It would be cool to make the player have to pull off an impossible shot. It would be cool to create a trap that isn't an ambush or scenery based.

 

Another thing I do is get inspiration from other games that don't have the same limitations as Doom and see if there is a way to make it happen using just basic Doom game dynamics. I've used inspiration from Films, Books, public art and architecture, dreams, wish-it-could-do-this when playing other maps. Anything.

 

Edit:

As I right this just had an idea for deathmatch/teamplay. I never play this style so others are welcome to try it. Wouldn't it be cool if, instead of just trying to kill each other, which is boring (for me), there was more tacticality to a deathmatch. For example, solving map puzzles that open rewards. Or flipping switches that make the enemy side's base more hazardous. Or, if there's a flag system. Switches that move scenery to the enemy flag that the enemy can move to your flag, so there's like a tug of war aspect to the map and it's scenery. Or switches that spawn monsters inside the enemy base. The kind of thing that makes other people shout "bastard!"

Edited by alowe

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It may help you to try a collab with a more gameplay-oriented mapper and see how they approach map/encounter building during development.

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Some more thoughts: What are some enjoyable things about Doom, in general?

  • Discovery - Finding new, neat-looking, memorable places. Figuring out how switches work in a particular level or map-set (maybe all switches on the right open up areas to the right, and switches to the left open up the left, for example). Finding out how to get to an area through a window, later on in the map.
  • Reward - Ammo, health, and armor, after searching, or after a big battle.
  • Power - Being able to clear out a hectic area, using your smarts, or sheer firepower.
  • Agility - Maps that have huge staircases, large runways, and big jumps that cater to Doomguy's speed and natural (or added) jumping abilities.
  • Secrets! - Finding a secret is always fun. Seeing monsters open up secrets can be cool as well.
  • Infighting scenarios - Imagine a setup with imps in the front, and a bunch of chaingunners in the back, who immediately piss off all the imps, reducing a frightening mega-battle into an action movie!

There's so many things you can do to make a map more enjoyable. If you can temporarily change your perspective (see through the monster's eyes, the player's eyes, a spectator's eyes, etc.), you have what it takes to imagine unlimited possibilities. I'm sure that experience helps a lot too, and, as Fonze says, working with other mappers with an interest in gameplay should make a big difference. Trusting in yourself is big too. What I mean is that, it's usually impossible to please everyone, and having an individual style lets you offer a specific experience that some people will naturally seek. Good luck!

 

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Posted (edited)

I also get inspiration from my sadistic side. I like to play with the player and made them bleed in ways they'll only realise how to avoid in hindsight :D

 

Recently I had a pooly lit room full of Specters. Unbeknown to the player they kill all the Specters by triggering a crusher/barrel trap long before they reach the room. So, the room is now full of Specter corpses, hehe.

 

The player enters the room triggering an Archvile to be freed. The Archvile teleports amongst the bodies and starts resurrecting them. By the time the player realises what's happening they try to kill the Archvile, but it's too late. They only hit the Specters and waste their ammo.

 

There are two tactics in this case. Rush in and try to take out the Archvile quickly and risk taking damage. Or sit back safely but risk wasting all your ammo. Even when the player knows the trap in advance it's still possible to muck it up and come unstuck, or use too much ammo which is needed for the next section.

 

The "reward" is a switch to access the next part of the level (and the next nasty trap). It's so much fun being evil, muahahaha!

Edited by alowe

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When in a bind to decide which map(s) to play I revert to Oblige 7.70 and have it create maps for me, which I then play with PFEnh.pk3 and QeffectsGL. Great fun.

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Thanks for all the advice guys. I read through the replies and tried to throw myself at GZDB and put some of the ideas and suggestions to work, but I honestly think that at this point my brain is hardwired to have a total meltdown whenever I open the editor so i didn't succeed in mapping too much (i placed a player start and then cried for roughly 6 hours). I think I should probably use a different editor. 

 

Alternatively i could just stick to what I do best, making fun texture splices, cuz that's at least fun and doesn't make me want to bash my head in everytime. Maybe someone will come across my texturework and offer to use it in a map. Or i could compile that shit into a resource wad and make a little community project or something. (although i doubt i could handle managing one myself, plus i have this pervasive fear that the doomworld collective would chew me out for trying to make one cuz i'm not enough of a respected regular yet.)

 

17 hours ago, Fonze said:

It may help you to try a collab with a more gameplay-oriented mapper and see how they approach map/encounter building during development.

I considered that, but i don't know any mappers well enough to be comfortable collaborating with em, unfortunately.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, 129thVisplane said:

I considered that, but i don't know any mappers well enough to be comfortable collaborating with em, unfortunately.

People don't need to get along to work together, they just need a good project manager.

E.g. 1 person for map design, 1 person for scenery, 1 person for things and monster placement, 1 for graphics and 1 for music.

And perhaps 1 person for scripting. Obviously the more limited numbers you have the more jobs people have to take on.

 

Problem is, there just isn't enough people with the skills any more, who are also willing to be involved in a project (most have their own projects). Then there's always real life. You know: kids, wives, jobs, moving house/city/country etc. And people's mental health fluctuates. In my experience wives don't buy the "I must meet this deadline" excuse when they're not getting what they're wanting (like food on the table and your 110% dedication and attention).

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3 hours ago, 129thVisplane said:

I considered that, but i don't know any mappers well enough to be comfortable collaborating with em, unfortunately.

 

This is a fair and understandable concern, but I have a question on what exactly you mean by 'know them well enough.' If you mean personally, I wouldn't worry about it; you'll find out quickly if you can get along with the person or not on a personal level and dropping the collab won't lose you much at all. But make no mistake that it is critical that both/all mappers get along; don't get involved in a large project with somebody you don't get along with, as not only will that hurt the exchange of ideas in general, which is a big part of the fun of a collab, but it will also cause tensions as opinions on what direction to go, or what gets cut, differ from mapper to mapper. I didn't know any of the mappers I have collabed with before jumping right into it and I've yet to have any measurable problems; the worst issue I've had with a collab is due to language barriers, or more-so things being lost in translation. I have had to can some ideas I thought were awesome and even in retrospect I feel like it's a bit of a shame, like the reflective sea no longer in map19 of tht that didy wanted removed. I really didn't want to kill it, because it looks damn cool, but at the same time it's not an important thing at all and I valued the collab more than a tiny detail. He also compromised on many things as well, and in the end we worked well together. Most established mappers seem to not take themselves or their creations too seriously to demand you do everything their way, or to say this is "their" map and you're just helping or whatever, and there are a lot of nice, humble people here on DW that are a pleasure to work with. But a big part of the personal side is just both/all parties going into it with the right mindset. Getting along comes easily from there because you all have a mutual respect for one-another wrt the task at hand, and that common ground brings folks together. To that degree, try to reach out to an established mapper rather than get caught up with a newer mapper who just wants all the frills with no understanding of gameplay at its core. Not only will it save you time and headache, it will also be a much better learning experience for you, and if you take every map as a learning experience, you will eventually become a great mapper, as well as a desirable collab partner to work with, as those I've had the pleasure to work with have been.

 

If you mean knowing potential partners on a wad-ography level, then that just comes down to basic researching, which most people who are friendly to you will be more than happy to try to pimp their previous works if you ask them what they've built to see if y'all and your styles will mesh well.

 

There are more than a few gameplay-oriented mappers I'd personally recommend to you to reach out to, but Idk if it's kosher for me to volunteer names out like that, so hopefully they will come along of their own volition, but I will throw out there that I'm always down for a collab, though given my current situation I'd prefer a small map. I don't think I've ever played one of your maps, unless it was like 2 years ago, but I enjoy seeing the textures you put out on occasion so it'd be cool to see some maps with them in it. Speaking of, a cp with your textures might be a cool and welcome idea, especially if you make a map or three for it to kick it off :)

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The solution to conflicting ideas is to put them in separate maps. That way everyone wins and it helps increase the content of the wad.

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11 hours ago, 129thVisplane said:

I considered that, but i don't know any mappers well enough to be comfortable collaborating with em, unfortunately

Join the joy of mapping discord. Plenty mappers there who can help you out, or might be interested in doing a collab.

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Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, Nine Inch Heels said:

Join the joy of mapping discord. Plenty mappers there who can help you out, or might be interested in doing a collab.

So the place is active outside of making various "Joy of mapping" mapsets?

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1 minute ago, Nine Inch Heels said:

Yes it is

K, thats awesome! Are the mappers there often? Who are the regulars? 

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Posted (edited)
9 minutes ago, Catpho said:

K, thats awesome! Are the mappers there often? Who are the regulars? 

Not sure who can be considered "regular" there at the moment, but the place has tutors, playtesters and other mappers all the time. The discord might just not be as active between the JOMs as during them, but Jimmy's idea was to create a discord that would help people realize their mapping ideas and support them on their way there in general. That said, if you wanna get in touch with other mappers, then I don't think there's much of a reason not to join.

Edited by Nine Inch Heels

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Posted (edited)

There is one thing that almost every enjoyable map has that mediocre maps don't: Varied fights.

 

If there is one thing that can put me to sleep when playing a wad it's walking through a generic corridor after generic corridor blasting monsters that appear right in front of me with almost no variation whatsoever. There are many ways to make monsters attack and countless if you are using zdoom. You can make monsters teleport from several directions in what appeared to be an empty area. You can can alter the level layout by using moving sectors that changing the combat situation in an instant. You can place some monsters at a greater height than you. You can do all kinds of stuff. Whatever you do, don't just always put the monsters right in front of me without any variation at all because that shit gets old fast.

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14 hours ago, 129thVisplane said:

Thanks for all the advice guys. I read through the replies and tried to throw myself at GZDB and put some of the ideas and suggestions to work, but I honestly think that at this point my brain is hardwired to have a total meltdown whenever I open the editor so i didn't succeed in mapping too much (i placed a player start and then cried for roughly 6 hours). I think I should probably use a different editor

 

Narrow your goal to making one room at a time, forget about the map and focus on one room. Better yet, make a one-room test map with some monsters visible from the start. Play it through and ask yourself "at which point would a monster closet or teleport ambush be great?", and "how can I restrict monster movement or place them to make it harder to reach that rocket launcher/armor/health pack?". Send your one room fight to the forums for feedback and suggestions.

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14 hours ago, 129thVisplane said:

Thanks for all the advice guys. I read through the replies and tried to throw myself at GZDB and put some of the ideas and suggestions to work, but I honestly think that at this point my brain is hardwired to have a total meltdown whenever I open the editor so i didn't succeed in mapping too much (i placed a player start and then cried for roughly 6 hours). I think I should probably use a different editor.

 

Hey mate, I have had this problem before pretty frequently, I have only recently found ways to reliably combat this for myself. I think about how much wasted time I could have saved my younger self if I could go back and tell him what I know now... so hopefully my advice can help you save yourself too haha.

 

When I was younger I was really obsessed with releasing maps that would get me noticed, which meant making something really high quality. And in fact I stressed so much about trying to make something "great" that I couldn't settle for letting myself make something "ok," and as a result I wasted so much time trying to make sure I only put down content in Doom Builder that was going to be "great." I rarely let myself just sketch things out, or go wild and try new things, or find ways to make mapping fun for myself, because I was focused on getting something quality now and not later. Especially with the huge quantity of really skilled mappers in the community these days, it's really easy to get swept up in trying to be "one of them" and hold yourself to an unreasonably high standard.

 

I prefaced this with "when I was younger," but I still carried this attitude with me to varying degrees until really recently. It's so hard to both be productive and have fun when you have set this standard for yourself and convinced yourself that it's not ok to fail at mapping in any way. Even with this anti-failure attitude, though, I would still get so motivated at times. I would be on the way to school and listen to some Castlevania soundtrack and become suddenly inspired for a mapset I could make that would fit really well with the music, and have these grand castles, and make 10 maps with a bunch of boss battles and new weapons and new monsters blah blah blah. I have had this happen so many times; I have so many ideas of cool shit I want to build, but nothing has ever come to fruition, and I think it's because of this shitty attitude I'm talking about, where I want to make something great, and I want to make it right now. If ever I decide to start making one of these ideas a reality, and I end up staring at a blank canvas for too long, I become so discouraged that I give up on the project, become frustrated with myself and mapping, and then repeat the process like a week later.

 

Recently I started thinking about why this was happening to me so frequently. I remember thinking to myself that there was like a 1-in-10 chance of actually making something I liked when I opened the editor. Every time I opened up Doom Builder, it was a a total gamble whether I would end the mapping session in total frustration, or satisfaction with whatever I had made. Your post makes me think that this might be where you are right now, and that maybe you have a similar mindset that is holding you back. What fixed the issue for me was two things, I think:

 

  1. Playing maps and (crucially) paying attention when I play them. I don't play that many more maps nowadays than I used to, but now I actually pay attention when playing and auto-pilot much less. I take more notice of the situations that I am forced into as the player, where pressure is coming from and what monsters are applying it, and whether I am enjoying whatever situation I'm in. I now know what kind of maps I enjoy most because of this, and that makes it so much easier to handle monster placement and design maps around fights now.
  2. Being open to whatever means necessary to ensure that I can maintain whatever motivation I have at any given moment when I'm mapping. Sometimes I have enough ideas coming into it that I can start from a blank canvas. But sometimes I really want to do some mapping, but a blank canvas is way too daunting. In situations like this, old me would have stared at the canvas for 10 minutes, scribbled some bullshit lines down, and given up out of frustration. But now I know myself, so I think of ways to get around this. I can copy paste a map from Scythe and remix the hell out of it for my own enjoyment, never to leave my hard drive. Or I can write out a text summary of some cool fights in Sunder, and then use that text as reference to recreate my own version of said fights in a new map. Or I can open up the "post your screenshot" thread and find a cool shot and copy it in the editor, letting my imagination fill in all the gaps in the map that the screenshot doesn't cover. Or I can do whatever the hell else I want, because ultimately I just want to have fun mapping, and if I get something releasable out of it, it's just a bonus.

 

After making those ^^ two changes, I almost never close Doom Builder feeling frustrated anymore, and never nearly as extreme as I used to feel. I do whatever I can to have a good time mapping, and I let myself try out stuff that might not work, and I never force myself to do anything I don't want to do (or try to map when I just don't feel like it). I haven't released anything since 2014 I think but I have nonetheless learned so much since then by just making maps for my own enjoyment.

 

So I guess in summary my advice would be to take a step back, take the pressure off yourself, and let yourself enjoy the process whether you "fail" or "succeed." I'd also recommend reading this post by @rdwpa because I think it has been some of the most helpful mapping advice I have seen in a long time

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